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Can Chickens Fly

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When we were younger we learned that feathers and hollow bones allowed birds to fly. You may be curious to know that chickens also possess those traits. And yet, can chickens fly? Well, yes and no.

When chickens are only a few weeks old, they can fly or flit around. And that’s the closest they come to resembling flying around like other birds. But when they’re older, they don’t fly so much as use their wings to propel up and over objects. So they don’t cover much distance. That’s because not all of their bones are hollow.

Chicken Origins

colorful rooster on the ground
Photo by Paul Harrison on Pexels.com

Modern poultry descends from the Red Jungle Fowl, which has the ability to take off and fly away from danger. However this amazing bird isn’t suited for long flights. And present-day chickens have had this capability bred out of them with heavier body mass.

But still, there are backyard birds that have maintained this talent.

Chicken Breeds that can “Sort of” Fly

The following is a list of breeds that can manage the art of flying better than their counterparts.

Black Ameraucana rooster standing on wooden fence
Megatron, the rooster boss.

Heavier birds, like Wyandottes and Black Sex-links, can’t even get off the ground. Although, why would chickens want to fly in the first place?

Reasons Chickens Might Fly

  • The Grass is Always Greener.
mixed flock of chickens in a yard separated by a chainlink fence
In this picture, Tiny Nuts just flew back over the fence, while some of his hens stayed in the front yard. And one hen is on the fence, about to cross over to the other side.

Chickens love to explore and will go in your neighbor’s yard, because the grass and bugs are way better than what’s in your yard! Or maybe they just think the fence is some cool obstacle they’re meant to cross, and your yard and your neighbor’s yard just belong to the birds.

  • Henhouse Bullying

Introducing new birds, chicks figuring out the pecking order, and 2 adult roosters can and will cause some birds to seek out new territory.

I noticed that’s what Tiny Nuts has been doing with his harem, while it was raining yesterday, and he wasn’t allowed in the run. I figured out that he just wants his own place where he and his girls can live in peace.

Black Ameraucana rooster in a field
Tiny Nuts the Roo
  • Predators
raccoon standing on fallen leaves
Photo by Andrey Yudkin on Pexels.com

And the last reason backyard birds will fly away from their own yard is if there is a threat, such as a predator.

How High can Chickens Fly

6 ft tall wood panel fence
Our neighbor’s 6 ft tall fence. (The yellow yard stick isn’t truly a yard stick, as it measures 48 inches. It’s for comparison purposes.)

A four foot fence is not a deterrent to the breeds I listed above. For example, on separate occasions, both my Ameraucana rooster and his hatchery mate flew over my neighbor’s 6 foot fence. While their dog attacked Soundwave, Megatron slept in their barn overnight. But both were recovered and are fine.

Since having Megatron, I have seen some amazing aerodynamics. Also, his genes have been passed to all of his offspring. In addition, he inspires the other chickens to take risks as well, even if they can’t quite fly. They’re convinced the grass is greener.

How to Prevent Chickens from Flying

black chick flies over wire fence

I have seen material that suggests building a covered run or a taller fence as the right option. And though neither is bad, they just aren’t going to stop your backyard birds from flying over your fence if you have one of those “flying” breeds. None of mine have ever “flown the coop”. But when they’re approaching adulthood, they fly over the fence all the time. Further, you might not want to build a 10 foot plus tall fence all over your yard. And if you have a very big yard, it could be cost prohibitive.

Rather than building a bigger fence, another option posed by cleverpetowners.com is to trick their eyes with stakes and fabric. You can find their suggestion and instructions here.

backlit photo of clipped chicken wing

And the final option is wing clipping. Despite being somewhat controversial, if done properly, it is not painful to the birds at all. Furthermore, it isn’t permanent. The controversy stems from the idea that it promotes irritation, feather-picking, starting a vicious cycle. And that the birds whose wings are clipped are hindered from exercise and can’t get away from fearful situations.

From my own experience of raising chickens on an acre for 7 years, I can say that none of that exists. The birds whose wings we clip just seem to be expanding their territory. And usually it’s their rooster leading them into danger. Once the wing clipping has commenced and is finished, the only thing the birds find is that they can no longer go where they wish to go. So they have to be content in their own yard. There’s no feather picking and no irritation. And they certainly aren’t hindered from exercising, because they can still walk just fine.

As far as the fearful situations go, we only live on an acre; and the only predators that lurk around us are dogs or hawks. And the dogs can’t get to our birds with our sturdy fence. Additionally, our birds know to run to their coop at the first sign of danger. Or they use burst flight to get away, unless their wings are clipped. Therefore, if you live on a lot of land, you might not want to clip your chickens wings. I don’t think my in-laws do, and they live on 40 acres. Thus, they get a lot more predators. So, in that case, wing clipping could put the birds at a disadvantage.

In Conclusion

Black Ameraucana rooster flying vertically while dog and person watch
Can you see Tiny Nuts fly vertically? It’s not the best picture, but none of my birds need a running start to fly. And he was never in danger from Sophie.

We learned that chickens descend from Red Jungle Fowl, which can fly. And many chicken breeds can still fly vertically. We also learned that they fly to get to greener pastures and to avoid conflict and predators. In addition, most backyard birds that fly can easily clear 6 feet, while some can fly over 10 feet. Further, the suggestions to prevent your birds from flying include building a taller fence, tricking them with stakes and fabric, and/or wing clipping.

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By KS

I breed pure Black Ameraucana chickens and Easter Eggers that are Black Ameraucana mixed with either Cuckoo Maran or Barred Rock. And I donate eggs to people or organizations in need.

2 replies on “Can Chickens Fly”

We’ve got one now that likes to pace back and forth on the top of the coop roof. In ten years of chicken keeping, she is the only one that has felt compelled to do that

What breed?
I envy you, even though I love my birds. It’s just something we get to look forward to every year when we incubate or the hens hatch new chicks.

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